Updated at 7:30 a.m. on March 3, 2019

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A young boy with special needs is recovering after police say he was punched at random while riding the subway with his mother.

Imagine someone coming after your child for no apparent reason right in front of you. That’s what police say the suspect did Monday night — assaulted an innocent boy at the Fulton Street subway station while he was on board a No. 3 train with his mom, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

An 8-year-old boy with autism was punched by a stranger on the subway in what police believe was an unprovoked attack. (Credit: NYPD)

It’s a story that’s more like a nightmare for a parent.

“Anything involving a child makes you worry a little bit more,” said Sean Morales-Doyle of Crown Heights.

“It’s quite scary to hear about that. I’m a mom, too,” a woman added. “It’s sickening to see this and hear this.”

What’s especially alarming is the fact that police said the 8-year-old boy has autism and did nothing to provoke the attack.

Not a word was said between the two. The man just came out of nowhere at around 8:40 p.m.

Police said the incident happened as the train pulled into the station. The man walked over and punched the little boy in the head. The boy was no match for the man, who is believed to be around 50 years old and 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds.

The punch caused the child pain, swelling and a trip to the hospital.

“Maybe he … I don’t know … has some problems?” Bushwick’s Marina Rosa said of the suspect.

Late Tuesday night, 40-year-old Alex Bienaime was charged with assault and acting in a manner injurious to a child in the case.

The attack is raising concerns about the city’s multi-million dollar mental health program.

“Our city has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into Thrive NYC to address mental illness, yet our subway riders continue to experience these incidents all the time,” Councilman Robert F. Holden (D-30th) said in a Facebook post. “Recent incidents involving mentally ill homeless individuals on the M train in my district led me to question the effectiveness of the Thrive NYC initiative, and I will continue to do so until we see the benefits of the program ‘all over the city’ as they have claimed. We must come up with more creative solutions to get these individuals off the streets and get them the help they need and deserve.”

The NYPD confirmed to CBS2 that they’ve received reports from the public that the man has been known to frequent the Fulton subway stop, is known to be disturbed and is exhibiting erratic behavior. But they say they didn’t know that until today, CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported.

“We’re seeing harassment. We’re seeing ‘I’m going to threaten to stab you.’ We’re seeing them kick people. We’re seeing them push people,” Holden said. He says it’s just another case of mentally ill people behaving dangerously on the subway.

“I would think with $850 million we’d see a difference,” he said. “We’re not. It’s getting worse.”

CBS2 asked for an on camera interview with Thrive NYC Tuesday, and never heard back. An interview request with first lady Chirlane McCray was declined.

Her press secretary told CBS2 that more than 100,000 New Yorkers have benefited from mental health first aid through Thrive NYC, and through the NYPD that Thrive’s ensured more than 100,000 crime victims received advocacy services.

Rapoport asked if crimes or attacks by metally ill people on the subway were up, but received no answer.

New York City straphangers are trying to come to grips with another frightening case of senseless aggression on the subway.

“You always have to look around and look for suspicious behavior and try to avoid it as best you can. It’s just an unfortunate incident,” said Zuned Aman of lower Manhattan.